Obama said Wednesday "the tide of war began here and it will end here." One senior House Republican aide says that sounds like Obama is declaring an end to the war on terrorism.
"So in 2014, we don't have to worry about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or any other subsidiary group?" the aide says.
Meantime, domestic politics also appear part of Obama's gamble.
"Remember, the Obama team is very good at politics. The focus on al Qaeda also is for the domestic audience, who knows Afghanistan is where al Qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks. That is why he is tying al Qaeda to why we can in large part leave, while keeping some forces there longer."
Obama offered a glimpse of his campaign trail message about why he is placing the decade-long conflict on a path toward its conclusion.
"As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it is time to renew America. An America where our children live free from fear, and have the skills to claim their dreams," Obama said. "A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation."
Such flowery rhetoric did not sit well with some Republicans in Washington.
"He had to fly 7,000 miles to wrap his remarks with the campaign stump speech?" asks the senior House GOP aide.
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.